GENEVA – Following violent clashes between supporters and opponents of the President of Côte d’Ivoire in Abidjan last Saturday, the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire, Doudou Diène, called on the country to “ensure the freedom of association and expression” and to reinforce efforts to create a peaceful and secure space for political participation.
According to a preliminary investigation by UNOCI*, on January 21, individuals armed with stones and pieces of wood, claiming to belong to the Rassemblement des Houphouëtistes pour la démocratie et la paix (RHDP), a movement close to President Ouattara, stormed a political rally of the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI) party, the party of former president Laurent Gbagbo. Stones were thrown at FPI supporters, who were then chased all the way into homes and communities where they sought refuge. One person died and six were seriously injured.
The Independent Expert said that such violence constituted “a step backwards compared to the dynamics of the democratic elections held in December”, dynamics that he said should be based on sustained “respect for fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of expression and association, and a respect for political and cultural diversity as well as guarantees of impartial justice.”
Mr. Diène called for the creation of and respect for a secure and peaceful space for political participation to “ensure the expression of democratic life in the country.”
The Independent Expert recommended to the Government to ensure that the police and gendarmerie are provided with conventional means to enable them to maintain order.
Mr. Diène also further urged the authorities to set up an independent, impartial investigation with a view to bringing to justice the perpetrators of the violence of 21 January.
“I hope that effective measures will be taken to determine who was responsible for the incidents on that day, and to ensure the exercise of freedom of association and expression,” he said. “That is what it takes to ensure political pluralism,” he added, hoping that “the participation of all democratic parties in the upcoming municipal elections will demonstrate political will and the reality of an irreversible democratic culture taking root in Côte d’Ivoire.”
*United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire
OHCHR country page - Côte d'Ivoire http://www.ohchr.org/en/countries/africaregion/pages/ciindex.aspx
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